Cody Asche (right) is greeted by Juan Samuel after his two-run triple in the fourth inning of the Phillies' win over the Mets. (AP)
NEW YORK – The Phillies’ front office has a number of holes to fill this winter as it tries to get this club back to contender’s status.
Cody Asche’s play is beginning to scream: Hey, don’t worry about third base. I got it.
The 23-year-old former Nebraska Cornhusker continued his strong play in the field and at the plate Monday night. His two-run triple in the fourth inning was the difference-maker in a 2-1 win over the New York Mets at Citi Field (see Instant Replay).
Asche, a 2011 draft pick who has been in pro ball for just two years, debuted in the majors on July 30. He had just one hit in his first 17 at-bats. Since then, he is hitting .303 (20 for 66) with six doubles, a triple, two homers and 13 RBIs.
Hey, don’t worry about third base. I got it.
“I think that’s ultimately what I’d like,” Asche said after Monday night’s win. “But the season doesn’t end today. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played and I have a lot to prove. I just have to stay focused on what’s next and that’s tomorrow’s game.”
Asche isn’t the only one trying to win a prominent job for 2014. Interim manager Ryne Sandberg is trying to earn the full-time manager’s gig. At this point, he looks like a slam dunk as the Phillies have shaken themselves out of the funk that cost Charlie Manuel his job. The Phils have won seven of their last nine under Sandberg.
The conventional wisdom not long ago was that Asche would come to spring training with a shot to win the third base job.
He might end up winning it over the final five weeks of the season.
“Anything’s possible,” Sandberg said. “In a lot of ways, that’s what this month is for. He’s rising to the occasion.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s the full package down there at third base. I really like his range. He’s really come a long way (since spring training) with his glove work and his feet. And he has a true, accurate arm.”
Sandberg likes Asche’s left-handed stroke.
“He’s got a natural line-drive stroke,” Sandberg said. “He’s got a good chance to hit the ball every time because his bat stays in the zone long.”
On top of his physical tools, Asche has impressed with his intangibles. He did not get flustered when he was 1 for 17. Some young players would have.
“He doesn’t get too bothered about anything,” Sandberg said. “He shows fire. He gets mad, but in a positive way. Very mature. Gamer. Good work ethic. A lot of good characteristics.”
Asche’s triple helped make a winner out of Cliff Lee for the first time since July 5.
Lee likes what he’s seen of Asche so far.
“He’s getting more comfortable,” Lee said. “His skills are starting to show. His first week, he looked a little tense, which is kind of normal. He’s put that behind him and is now being a solid player. He plays the right way. I see him being here a while.”
Asche’s triple came on a 95-mph fastball from right-hander Zack Wheeler. He laced it to right-center.
Wheeler was tough. He allowed just five hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings, walked one and struck out seven.
Lee was a little better. He held the Mets to five hits and one run over eight innings. He walked one and struck out seven. His biggest strikeout came on his final pitch -- No. 121 -- of the night when he struck out Juan Lagares on a full-count fastball with two runners on base.
Lagares gave the tiring Lee an assist when he swung at a 2-0 pitch that was up and out of the zone. It would have been ball three.
“That definitely helped me out there,” Lee said. “It should have been 3-0. Instead it was 2-1 and it helped me get out of that.”
There was no way Sandberg was going to the bullpen at that point.
“It was his game right there,” the manager said of Lee.